Was Egypt a ‘Democratic Coup’?

Following Mohamed Morsy’s overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol’s argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the ...

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Following Mohamed Morsy's overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol's argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak In a post on the Opinio Juris blog yesterday day, Varol says recent events in Egypt don't fit the bill:

The Egyptian military deposed a president who was elected just a year ago via elections characterized by many as free and fair.  To be sure, the military responded to the demands of a massive protest movement against an immensely unpopular and defiant president. There is much to criticize about President Morsi’s majoritarian governance style and the Constitution drafted under the Muslim Brotherhood’s tutelage.  But the military’s actions were premature.  Speculations aside, there was no indication at the time of the coup that Morsi would refuse to relinquish power upon an electoral loss or that any elections under his government would be rigged, as they were under Mubarak.  Had the military not forcibly removed Morsi, opposition groups may have been able to capitalize on Morsi’s unpopularity to oust him at the ballot box.  The military’s quick-fix short-circuited the established democratic procedures.

For more coup follow-up, see Jay Ulfelder on how they slow economic growth.

Following Mohamed Morsy’s overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol’s argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak In a post on the Opinio Juris blog yesterday day, Varol says recent events in Egypt don’t fit the bill:

The Egyptian military deposed a president who was elected just a year ago via elections characterized by many as free and fair.  To be sure, the military responded to the demands of a massive protest movement against an immensely unpopular and defiant president. There is much to criticize about President Morsi’s majoritarian governance style and the Constitution drafted under the Muslim Brotherhood’s tutelage.  But the military’s actions were premature.  Speculations aside, there was no indication at the time of the coup that Morsi would refuse to relinquish power upon an electoral loss or that any elections under his government would be rigged, as they were under Mubarak.  Had the military not forcibly removed Morsi, opposition groups may have been able to capitalize on Morsi’s unpopularity to oust him at the ballot box.  The military’s quick-fix short-circuited the established democratic procedures.

For more coup follow-up, see Jay Ulfelder on how they slow economic growth.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Egypt

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.